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French lessons to manage a healthy weight: slow down and stretch meals to speed satisfaction Print

By Andrea Holwegner BSc, RD  “The Chocoholic Dietitian”

Twitter: @chocoholicRD

Website: www.healthstandnutrition.com 

Each year between fall and the holiday season, Melanie seemed to pack on a few extra pounds. The shorter amount of daylight was partly to blame for her lower motivation to keep up her walking program. She also found that comfort foods were available in the evening to “stuff” some of her anxiety and worry.

To solve these issues, we built a customized nutrition plan together that didn’t just map out what to eat, but also how to eat.

We considered factors that influenced when and how she determined her food choices, including where she was eating, what she was doing while eating and who she was eating with. We spent significant time examining how long it took to prepare a meal or snack and the speed of eating in general.

Melanie learned she ate her best when she planned what she was having for supper well in advance to prevent poor impulse decision-making. She also ate better when she was with someone else rather than alone. She made a goal to try not to eat her top three evening comfort foods (cookies, crackers and potato chips) when she was alone, since she never ate a whole bag or box when she was with someone else.

Most importantly, Melanie slowed down and took the time she needed to prepare and eat supper leisurely. Although she didn’t think she had time, when she honestly looked at how much television she watched in the evening, she was able to carve out a few more minutes.

To her surprise, stretching preparation, cooking and sitting down for supper from 20 to 60 minutes or longer made her feel less rushed and anxious later in the evening. Eating without the television on, putting food on a plate instead of eating it mindlessly out of a package and learning to en-joy each bite helped her to feel more satisfied despite eating less.

Obesity is far less common in France than it is in Canada. Some researchers believe this is partly because of smaller portion sizes and the way food is consumed in general.

Dr. Paul Rozin, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, compared restaurants matched for price, location and type of food – including fast food, bistro, pizza, Chinese and ice cream options – in both Pennsylvania and Paris. Although there are differences between Canadian and American eating pat-terns, this study highlights some interesting points. Parisian portions were smaller by 25 per cent than those in Pennsylvania.

The research also showed that meals at home might also be smaller in France. Comparing the size of recipes used in a popular American cookbook with a similar French cookbook showed American portions were 25 per cent – and meat dishes 53 per cent – larger than French portions. The only recipes that were smaller in the U.S. were those for vegetables.

One reason the French may find satisfaction with smaller portions may be related to the speed of eating. Rozin found that in Mc-Donald’s restaurants, the French consumed lunch in an average of 22.2 minutes compared to 14.4 minutes in the U.S.

Another study of 1,500 middle-aged women, published in the August 2011 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed the faster women reported their eating speed, the higher their weight. Each increase in eating speed on a five-step scale resulted in a 2.8 per cent greater body mass index (BMI), or approximately four more pounds.

In more traditional French restaurants and at home, it is customary to serve food in multiple courses and eat together with family and/or friends.

As Melanie found, this may help to stretch out the length of a meal, slow down the pace of eating and allow your brain to acknowledge satiety cues more accurately. It may also help with your overall enjoyment of the eating experience and help you feel that smaller amounts of food can truly be satisfying.

Andrea Holwegner is The Chocoholic Dietitian and owns Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466 for nutrition counselling, speaking engagements and to subscribe to her free monthly ezine. Twitter: @chocoholicRD.

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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